Third-year law student Tara Swanson is pictured with colleagues from her internship in the Netherlands at Conway Advocaat and Attorneys-at-law. Photo courtesy of Tara Swanson.

I’ve always enjoyed puzzles. Ever since I was a kid, I liked puzzles, logic games, brain teasers, anything that would challenge me. I still do the New York Times crossword every morning before I start my day and debrief about it with my dad. When I started my law school journey, I knew that this love of puzzles would be a factor in deciding which field I wanted to practice in. I discovered international law as a 1L and decided to set up a meeting with Professor Omar Dajani to speak about it. He talked about his experiences in international law, gave me a book to read about the field, and from that point on I was hooked. I knew that this was my path. International law was a giant puzzle, attempting to use different avenues of the law to make the pieces fit together and solve a complex problem. It was a match made in heaven.

The view from the top of the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg, Austria. Photo courtesy of Tara Swanson.

My journey to Salzburg however, started in January 2023 in Professor Dan Croxall’s office. I was struggling with what to do for my 2L summer and his answer was almost immediate; “Why aren’t you going to Salzburg?” I sat back and asked myself the same question. I had planned to participate in the Salzburg Graduate Study Abroad Program in the 2021-2022 school year, however the program had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. As someone who would be graduating with a Concentration in International Law and wants to practice international arbitration and litigation, the choice seemed easy. I wanted to work abroad one day, what better way to get some experience and be sure this was truly the field for me. I emailed Assistant Dean Clémence Kucera that day to express my interest in the program and it ended up being the best decision I would ever make.

The view from lookout point at Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg, Austria. Photo courtesy of Tara Swanson.

Fast forward to May, I landed in the Netherlands (on my 26th birthday) and had never been more nervous in my life. I didn’t speak a word of Dutch, had never been outside the United States before, and was 5,387 miles away from my friends and family. I would be spending six weeks in Rotterdam with Conway Advocaat and Attorneys-at-law as a law intern learning all about international arbitration and then three weeks in Salzburg, Austria taking classes. I had only ever studied international law in the classroom and was anxious to see it in practice and get the chance to put my knowledge to use. As the weeks passed by, the anxieties fell away and I focused on learning as much as I could about the practice of international arbitration, witnessing firsthand its intricacies and nuances. I also began to deeply admire the Dutch way of life. Everyone at my firm worked hard, but they also understood the importance of a work-life balance. Daily walks after lunchtime became the norm and I had the privilege of getting to know the associates as friends, in addition to colleagues. I also got the opportunity to travel and see Amsterdam, The Hague, Vienna, and Venice, and foster so many new friendships. This program is so unique in the opportunities it provides, and I’m so grateful I got the chance to be a part of it.

By Tara Swanson, a third-year student at McGeorge School of Law.